Jury Denies Claim Former Teacher Fired for Witchcraft

March 14, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal jury in the Eastern District of New York has rejected a religious discrimination charge by a former teacher, who said she was fired because of false accusations she practiced Wicca, a religion frequently associated with witches.

According to the New York Law Journal, Lauren Berrios sued the Hampton Bays School District for discrimination based on her actual faith, Judaism, and her perceived faith, Wicca, and for defamation and creating a hostile work environment.    

Berrios’ argued that she became the target of former principal Andrew Albano, a born-again Christian, because of her Jewish or rumored pagan beliefs.

However, the school district claimed that she was fired because she was a “storyteller” with preexisting mental health issues and for her inability to get along with her co-workers.

After a five-day trial and one hour of deliberation, the seven-member jury denied her request for millions in damages.

“When considering Plaintiff’s claims in preparation for charging the jury, it occurred to the court that a claim based upon a ‘perceived’ religious belief may not state a viable claim under Title VII,” U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler said in an order dated Monday and communicated to the parties, but not the jury, according to the Law Journal.

He further noted that while the federal civil rights statute “provides for a cause of action for those discriminated against on account of their religious beliefs, it makes no specific provision including those who are ‘perceived’ to belong to a particular religion as falling within a protected class.”

The case is Berrios v. Hampton Bays Union Free School District, 02-3124.